According to a joint study by researchers from multiple Chinese universities, the new coronavirus has split into two distinct strains, with one appearing to be far more aggressive.
This new discovery could hinder attempts to develop a vaccine, as researcher at Peking University’s School of Life Sciences and the Institut Pasteur of Shanghai, who looked at 103 genomes of SARS-CoV-2 and found the virus had evolved into two separate strains, known as “S” and “L”, with the “L” type being newer, more prevalent and more aggressive.
The older ‘S-type’ appears to be milder and less infectious, while the ‘L-type’ which emerged later, spreads quickly and currently accounts for around 70 per cent of cases.
Genetic analysis of a man in the US who tested positive on January 21, also showed it is possible to be infected with both types.
In contrast, other experts in the field say the two types the Chinese researchers claimed to have identified were a result of both normal viral mutation and errors in data that they were relying on.